Why Your Chinese Contract Translation Demands Accuracy

Posted on 08/12/2015
In International Litigation, Translation



chinese translation serviceIf you are planning to conduct business in China, you would be wise to obtain professional, accurate contract translations.

Without a proper translation, you could compromise your business deal or even face legal issues.

Before you sign any contracts, find out why it’s crucial to secure a good translation.

Legal Differences Between China and the US

There are myriad differences between the US and China, and one is relevant to contracts in particular. Essentially, US laws are almost always to be taken seriously and adhered to in order to prevent legal issues.

But in China, the law can be less rigid. Less serious laws, such as the ban on public smoking, are rarely enforced, though the police have the right to do so if they feel it is necessary.

This tendency to think laws are flexible means your contract must be ironclad. When drafting your contract, explicitly spell out the terms and conditions — especially ones that may be taken for granted in Western law.

Anyone in the contract translation industry should be aware of this when working with Chinese documents. Otherwise, the people who depend on the contract may find themselves in court when they experience the repercussions of a poor legal translation.

Language Differences Between English and Chinese

Just as with any other two languages, English and Chinese can be incongruous. For example, the Chinese word 必须 (bixu) can be translated into English as “must,” “shall,” “may,” or “should” — you can imagine the headaches this can cause in a contract translation.

For this reason, a professional translator needs to be fluent in both languages and able to understand shades of context. And when clarification is necessary, the translator must have the ability to ask questions (something machine translation cannot do). A professional legal translation service can easily facilitate questions between the translator and the client, making sure that the most accurate translation possible is provided.

Further, these language differences make it imperative to procure your own translation of the Chinese contract — or, if your Chinese partner translates the contract themselves, it would be wise to obtain a back translation of their contract. It’s vital to make sure the English and Chinese contracts are mirrors of one another, lest you have another Treaty of Waitangi on your hands.

Don’t Risk It — Hire a Professional

Of course, anyone performing a legal translation should understand the terms he or she will encounter. The people who specialize in contract translation don’t necessarily have to be lawyers, but they should be familiar with the legal terms and the laws in the United States and China.

If an inexperienced translator — or worse, an automated translation system — is used for your Chinese contract translation, you’re likely to encounter costly legal disputes later. A 2012 Shanghai Maritime Court case perfectly highlights how problematic poor translations can be.

Don’t risk your contract and your money by putting it in the hands of a poor translator — use a professional legal translation company for your Chinese contracts.


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